Thanks to everyone who commented on last Friday’s blog post re: what should I write about next?
Taking your advice well into mind (while also doing exactly what I wanted to do in the first place), you’ll get a post on “sticky systems” tomorrow. Very very very excited to start writing about this; also excited to work in some personal finance stuff.
Today, it’s LINK ROUNDUP TIME.
There’s a lot that has been written about deliberate practice for musicians, but not quite as much about deliberate practice for writers — in part because many people assume (and I would gently suggest mistakenly) that music is better suited for the kind of practice where you work a small chunk of material over and over until it is specific, replicable, effectively communicates your intent, and so on.
Why wouldn’t writers want to work their own material in the same way?
It’s the “replicable” part that might cause a writer to assume that deliberate practice might not work for their discipline, I think. Scales and free throws and triple axels and all of that stuff lend themselves to a “how can I do this the same way every time” mentality, and writing is more of a “how can I create something new every time” thing, except (EXCEPT!) the part of playing music (or shooting free throws) that needs to be replicable is the craft part, aka “how do I create a body of knowledge that I can access and manipulate at any time,” not the “how do I make something new from what I already know” part.
And writers can also work on improving their craft to the point of internalized replicability.
Just like musicians.
(I teach this, btw. Take one of my classes, and it’ll be there.)
Anyway, all of this is to say that author Hilary Gan recently published a short ebook that touches on the concept of how to apply deliberate practice to your writing. Here’s how she describes her Bluebird Manifesto:
A writer’s guide to living an artistic life, sustainably. Some helpful exercises, advice on how to apply the concept of deliberate practice to writing, and four central tenets will guide you through shaping your artistic and creative life around the demands of everyday life—without sacrificing your authenticity.
Here’s one of the most intriguing quotes from the manifesto (feel free to discuss whether or not you agree with it):
The Golden Rule calls us, as artists, to prioritize the work itself higher than anything else in our lives. Other things can be priority, but the work — the painting, or the writing, or the music-making — must be the highest priority. Higher than family. Higher than exercise or selfcare. Higher than love.
Here’s one way in which Gan applies deliberate practice to her writing:
So, in short, I identified a very specific skill I wanted to improve at: plot. I looked for examples of writing that exhibited expert-level plots and analyzed them until I understood patterns and commonalities between those works of art. Currently I am in the process of applying what I learned to my own work. After that, I will measure my success in improving this skill based on the metric we established before: can I get it published?
On the subject of applying deliberate practice to things: I recently discovered Noa Kageyama’s Bulletproof Musician — “Learn how performance psychology can help you beat nerves and perform your very best on stage” — and am slowly working my way through the blog and resources.
I say “slowly” because Dr. Kageyama’s resources are so so so good that I want time to both process his tips and (here comes the pun) put them into practice.
Here’s a very short excerpt from “8 Practice Hacks” (a free PDF you get when you subscribe to the Bulletproof Musician newsletter):
Let’s say you were only allowed to practice two hours today. What would you spend your time on? How would the intensity of your focus change? What shortcuts or strategies would you develop to ensure that you make the most of your time? What decision rules would you create to avoid getting too bogged down in details that don’t represent the most effective use of your time and energy?
Since I am only “allowed” (by which I mean I only “have time”) to practice for two hours on a good day, that little tip made me rethink how I was spending my time — and whether I needed to put any new decision rules into (no, wait, I already used the “practice” pun, I should use another one) play.
On the subject of musicians who may or may not be able to stop bullets: Laser Malena-Webber is one half of The Doubleclicks (“an internationally touring, Billboard-charting sibling folk-pop music duo with a cello, a ukulele and a meowing cat keyboard”) and the author of Crowdfunding for Musicians: Using Kickstarter, Patreon and More to Get Paid for Your Music.
I’ve known Laser for years, and their musicianry and businessianry are top-notch. They recently launched Laser Campaigns, a consulting service to help motivated musicians and creators grow a genuine fanbase and take their careers to the next level.
Want to know a little more before you decide whether to sign up for creative consulting? Here’s an excerpt from one of Laser’s blog posts about how to build a successful Patreon:
You need to promote your Patreon to get people to back it, absolutely. However, you shouldn’t promote your Patreon page to people who don’t care about you yet. When a fan first hears about you, they should get excited, they should dig into your art, they should get to know you as a person, they should experience more art, and then they should invest their money. So set up ways for all of these things to happen!
Tara is using her Patreon support to create poems, essays, photos, & creative play projects, and notes that you might connect with her work if you like “seasons, ritual, walking, silence, sunrise, owls, sacred reading, moon-watching & star-singing, secret urban stairways & narrow field-paths, the sea that calls forever inside the heart.”
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you probably already know whether you connect with Tara’s work. If you haven’t, here’s an excerpt from her most recent guest blog post:
Silence comes in many forms. I happen to have a deep need for the one form over which I have no control: silence external to me, all around me. On the particular day I am remembering, I didn’t have it. What I did have: the ability to still my own hands, and close my own mouth on sighs of frustration, explanations, and that talking-it-through-out-loud thing I often do when I feel stressed.
There’s a particular serenity that attends the arrival and settling of inner silence. I cannot compel it. But I’ve discovered that I can invite it by the practice of outer silence. The outer sort and the inner are not equivalent; one does not necessarily even lead to the other. But their substances are similar enough that it’s worth learning how to do the one you really can affect. It’s also more difficult than it sounds. Try it — for more than a minute, or an hour, or a day, whatever your threshold is — and you’ll see.
On the subject of people who have been reading this blog for a while: Jack Herlocker, whose name you probably recognize if you’ve spent any time in the blog comment section, recently published an essay in Crow’s Feet on navigating life after a traumatic brain injury:
I keep a log file of how my days go. The trend is not awful. I have some bad days. I have a lot of good days.
But I know how it goes. At some point the “bad days” become “days.” Then it becomes notable when I have “good days,” which used to just be days. And by that time I will stare at my log data and not understand what it it trying to tell me.
Note to Jack: Your writing is beautiful.
Also, PITCH THE BLOG. ❤️